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People Today: Doug Kreitz Takes Time for the Children

(Photo - Doug Kreitz)
Doug Kreitz.
(Photo by Nicholas Bock.)

Every summer for the past nine years, Doug Kreitz has taken a week off from his work at SLAC to go take photos. But instead of heading into the wilderness or some other exotic locale, Kreitz goes to a university campus somewhere in the United States to work as a volunteer counselor and photographer for Youth Rally, a summer camp for children ages 11 to 17 who have special medical needs.

The volunteer-run camp, which has been in operation for more than 25 years, is designed to help kids foster a sense of independence despite their medical issues. To help campers get used to dormitory living, the event takes place at a different college campus each year.

This year's camp, held July 11-16 at the University of Colorado, Boulder, drew 111 campers and nearly 70 counselors, along with 13 nurses to provide medical care. Campers take field trips, put on fashion shows, attend dances, listen to speakers and take the opportunity to meet others who have faced similar challenges.

"Some of these kids have very, very complicated medical issues," Kreitz said. "What they find at camp is that they can be with kids just like them. And in some cases, they've never, ever met anybody else with the same problem. Typically, by the time they leave they're transformed."

(Photo Doug Kreitz)
Kreitz does his magic at the Youth Rally camp. (Photo courtesy of Doug Kreitz.)

As camp photographer, Kreitz not only creates a visual chronicle for the campers and counselors who attend, but provides a vital connection between the campers and their parents, posting his photos each night on the camp's Web site. He said that while the process of editing and organizing the photos can be laborious, the response is always more than enough to compensate for the effort.

"Typically, I don't get to bed until about three o'clock in the morning," he said. "The East Coast, of course, wakes up around the time that I got the pictures up [on the Web]. There will typically be two or three thousand image hits by the time breakfast is over, and by the end of the day we'll have as many as 10,000."

The value of Kreitz's work is evident in statistics from the camp's photo gallery site. For the 2009 event, Kreitz posted 982 photos. By the beginning of August, just weeks after the end of camp, the site had logged more than 450,000 individual image views.

Kreitz got involved with the camp nine years ago by way of his daughter, who participated as a camper for seven years. Kreitz worked as a counselor during his first three years and started working as a photographer his fourth year. Even though his daughter is now too old to attend, Kreitz has stuck around. He now serves on the board of directors in addition to providing photography.

For Kreitz, working with the camp is the latest step in his life-long passion for photography. He started as a studio photographer after finishing high school, and three years later, in 1968, started as a technical photographer for the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, now known as the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory.

"My first job at LBL was to process film from the bubble chambers," Kreitz said. "We had these 2,000 foot rolls of film from the bubble chamber and would run them through these motion picture processing machines. We'd deliver the rolls to the scanning staff for analysis."

The job provided a segue into what became a 40 year career working at Department of Energy labs. After seven years as a photographer at LBL, Kreitz spent 13 years in various administration and management roles, earning his bachelor's and Master of Business Administration degrees along the way. Kreitz left LBL in 1989 to serve as Human Resources Director at the Superconducting Supercollider Laboratory in Texas, and then came to SLAC in 1994 as Assistant Director for Business Services.

Kreitz, who retires on Friday, said he is looking forward to spending more time on photography and increasing his presence at Youth Rally, as well as participating in a variety of other community service activities.

"I want to use my skills and abilities to help out," he said

—Nicholas Bock
SLAC Today, August 12, 2009